Handwoven luxury

Image Source: The Hindu

Reposted from: The Hindu

A talk on the handloom industry underlined the importance of working with our hands

The tiny auditorium at the Bangalore International Centre, Domlur was brimming with women dressed in their best handlooms and weaves. Some wore Western clothes, designed from Indian weaves. They sat in rapt attention and absorbed every word from Jaya Jaitly and Uzramma (Founder of the Decentralized Cotton Yarn Trust and the Malkha Marketing Trust). The duo were in the city for a talk on the handloom industry, organised by FICCI Ladies Organization (FLO) — the women’s wing of the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

Jaya and Uzramma – both textile and craft legends – spoke to the gathering on “Handloom as a Green Industry”, which was followed by a sale of products from Dastkaari Haat Samhiti and Malkha Products.

Uzramma, born in Hyderabad, initiated the Dastkar Andhra Trust in 1995 to provide research and marketing services to the cotton handloom industry of Andhra Pradesh, and natural dyeing training to artisan groups.

Uzramma, who started the Malkha Marketing Trust in 2005, said she was always fascinated with the cotton handlooms. “It was the biggest industry in India and I started studying its history. That is how I got involved in the cotton handloom industry.” She said she has seen a gradual change in the lives of the weavers.

She has worked in this field for 27 years and spoke about the challenges. “We started off by making our own yarn. The great thing about handloom weaving is that it is able to create diversity. When big spinning mills came in, we lost that diversity and also the cotton that we grew as the mills used only one style of cotton, which weavers also used. In the process, we also lost our desi cottons. Our aim has been to bring back that diversity even in our cottons. That is the USP of our handlooms,” she stressed.

Jaya added that “using our hands to make crafts is an intrinsically logical process. Making it by hand has its environmental viability. Today everyone thinks of the cost, but not about the social and environmental cost. I believe a time will come when we will be able to bring down the price of handlooms products even more.”

Speaking of using online platforms to fight for the cause of weavers, Jaya said, “If you see FB you will realise a big battle is going on from my side to save what originally was the work of Dilli Haat. Today, 90 per cent of it is taken over by traders.”

Jaya went on to explain how we can initiate the process in schools. “You have to first touch and feel – feel the mud, the grass, the loom and the fabric. For when you feel, you overcome the thinking that everything comes from the brain and computer. Point out little things to your children.”

When the discussion veered towards the meaning of luxury, Jaya said, “A well-known designer invited me for a launch. I felt like a fish out of water as I don’t believe in brands. I wore a sari which was handwoven. I have worked with weavers over the years and that for me is luxury. I feel I have led a luxurious life wearing only hand made stuff. Luxury may be different for each of us. For me, it may also be getting into my quilt on a cold day with a hot cup of chai. We have to understand what luxury means for us and not get carried away by what the brands want us to believe. Isn’t it strange that the mechanics of the corporate market have created a market? Now it is up to people like us to create a mindset that in a world of machines and technology, handmade designs is a luxury.”

The article was first published in The Hindu

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